Edward Snowden

Open Letter To Obama

July 26, 2013 President Barack Obama The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20500 Re: Civil Disobedience, Edward J. Snowden, and the Constitution Dear Mr. President: You are acutely aware More »

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U.S. Companies Pay Just One-Third Of The Legal Tax Rate: GAO Study

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Man Tried for Chalk Drawings Found Not Guilty

NBC San Diego July 1, 2013 By Christina London The man accused of vandalism for drawing with chalk outside banks has been found not guilty on all charges. A jury returned its More »

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The Bigger Story Behind the AP Spying Scandal

Washington’s Blog/Global Research May 20, 2012 By George Washington Attack on the Press You know that the Department of Justice tapped scores of phone lines at the Associated Press. You might have More »

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‘Anonymous’ Hacker Explains Why He Fled The US

Business Insider Mar. 2, 2012 By Michael Kelley Anonymous is front and center these days: the amorphous hacktivist group has been publishing internal data of U.S. banks while prominent members are prosecuted More »

Category Archives: Activist

Open Letter To Obama

Edward Snowden

July 26, 2013

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20500

Re: Civil Disobedience, Edward J. Snowden, and the Constitution

Dear Mr. President:

You are acutely aware that the history of liberty is a history of civil disobedience to unjust laws or practices. As Edmund Burke sermonized, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Civil disobedience is not the first, but the last option. Henry David Thoreau wrote with profound restraint in Civil Disobedience: “If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has a spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, then perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the evil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.”

Thoreau’s moral philosophy found expression during the Nuremburg trials in which “following orders” was rejected as a defense. Indeed, military law requires disobedience to clearly illegal orders.

A dark chapter in America’s World War II history would not have been written if the then United States Attorney General had resigned rather than participate in racist concentration camps imprisoning 120,000 Japanese American citizens and resident aliens.

Civil disobedience to the Fugitive Slave Act and Jim Crow laws provoked the end of slavery and the modern civil rights revolution.

We submit that Edward J. Snowden’s disclosures of dragnet surveillance of Americans under § 215 of the Patriot Act, § 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments, or otherwise were sanctioned by Thoreau’s time-honored moral philosophy and justifications for civil disobedience. Since 2005, Mr. Snowden had been employed by the intelligence community. He found himself complicit in secret, indiscriminate spying on millions of innocent citizens contrary to the spirit if not the letter of the First and Fourth Amendments and the transparency indispensable to self-government. Members of Congress entrusted with oversight remained silent or Delphic. Mr. Snowden confronted a choice between civic duty and passivity. He may have recalled the injunction of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.” Mr. Snowden chose duty. Your administration vindictively responded with a criminal complaint alleging violations of the Espionage Act.

From the commencement of your administration, your secrecy of the National Security Agency’s Orwellian surveillance programs had frustrated a national conversation over their legality, necessity, or morality. That secrecy (combined with congressional nonfeasance) provoked Edward’s disclosures, which sparked a national conversation which you have belatedly and cynically embraced. Legislation has been introduced in both the House of Representatives and Senate to curtail or terminate the NSA’s programs, and the American people are being educated to the public policy choices at hand. A commanding majority now voice concerns over the dragnet surveillance of Americans that Edward exposed and you concealed. It seems mystifying to us that you are prosecuting Edward for accomplishing what you have said urgently needed to be done!

The right to be left alone from government snooping–the most cherished right among civilized people—is the cornerstone of liberty. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson served as Chief Prosecutor at Nuremburg. He came to learn of the dynamics of the Third Reich that crushed a free society, and which have lessons for the United States today.

Writing in Brinegar v. United States, Justice Jackson elaborated:

The Fourth Amendment states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

These, I protest, are not mere second-class rights but belong in the catalog of indispensable freedoms. Among deprivations of rights, none is so effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual and putting terror in every heart. Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government. And one need only briefly to have dwelt and worked among a people possessed of many admirable qualities but deprived of these rights to know that the human personality deteriorates and dignity and self-reliance disappear where homes, persons and possessions are subject at any hour to unheralded search and seizure by the police.

We thus find your administration’s zeal to punish Mr. Snowden’s discharge of civic duty to protect democratic processes and to safeguard liberty to be unconscionable and indefensible.

We are also appalled at your administration’s scorn for due process, the rule of law, fairness, and the presumption of innocence as regards Edward.

On June 27, 2013, Mr. Fein wrote a letter to the Attorney General stating that Edward’s father was substantially convinced that he would return to the United States to confront the charges that have been lodged against him if three cornerstones of due process were guaranteed. The letter was not an ultimatum, but an invitation to discuss fair trial imperatives. The Attorney General has sneered at the overture with studied silence.

We thus suspect your administration wishes to avoid a trial because of constitutional doubts about application of the Espionage Act in these circumstances, and obligations to disclose to the public potentially embarrassing classified information under the Classified Information Procedures Act.

Your decision to force down a civilian airliner carrying Bolivian President Eva Morales in hopes of kidnapping Edward also does not inspire confidence that you are committed to providing him a fair trial. Neither does your refusal to remind the American people and prominent Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate like House Speaker John Boehner, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann,and Senator Dianne Feinstein that Edward enjoys a presumption of innocence. He should not be convicted before trial. Yet Speaker Boehner has denounced Edward as a “traitor.”

Ms. Pelosi has pontificated that Edward “did violate the law in terms of releasing those documents.” Ms. Bachmann has pronounced that, “This was not the act of a patriot; this was an act of a traitor.” And Ms. Feinstein has decreed that Edward was guilty of “treason,” which is defined in Article III of the Constitution as “levying war” against the United States, “or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

You have let those quadruple affronts to due process pass unrebuked, while you have disparaged Edward as a “hacker” to cast aspersion on his motivations and talents. Have you forgotten the Supreme Court’s gospel in Berger v. United States that the interests of the government “in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done?”

We also find reprehensible your administration’s Espionage Act prosecution of Edward for disclosures indistinguishable from those which routinely find their way into the public domain via your high level appointees for partisan political advantage. Classified details of your predator drone protocols, for instance, were shared with the New York Times with impunity to bolster your national security credentials. Justice Jackson observed in Railway Express Agency, Inc. v. New York: “The framers of the Constitution knew, and we should not forget today, that there is no more effective practical guaranty against arbitrary and unreasonable government than to require that the principles of law which officials would impose upon a minority must be imposed generally.”

In light of the circumstances amplified above, we urge you to order the Attorney General to move to dismiss the outstanding criminal complaint against Edward, and to support legislation to remedy the NSA surveillance abuses he revealed. Such presidential directives would mark your finest constitutional and moral hour.

Sincerely,

Bruce Fein

Counsel for Lon Snowden

Lon Snowden

The persecution of Barrett Brown – and how to fight it

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Guardian
Mar. 21, 2013
By

Aaron’s Swartz’s suicide in January triggered waves of indignation, and rightly so. He faced multiple felony counts and years in prison for what were, at worst, trivial transgressions of law. But his prosecution revealed the excess of both anti-hacking criminal statutes, particularly the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), and the fixation of federal prosecutors on severely punishing all forms of activism that challenge the power of the government and related entities to control the flow of information on the internet. Part of what drove the intense reaction to Swartz’s death was how sympathetic of a figure he was, but as noted by Orin Kerr, a former federal prosecutor in the DOJ’s computer crimes unit and now a law professor at GWU, what was done to Swartz is anything but unusual, and the reaction to his death will be meaningful only if channeled to protest other similar cases of prosecutorial abuse:

“I think it’s important to realize that what happened in the Swartz case happens in lots and lots of federal criminal cases. . . . What’s unusual about the Swartz case is that it involved a highly charismatic defendant with very powerful friends in a position to object to these common practices. That’s not to excuse what happened, but rather to direct the energy that is angry about what happened. If you want to end these tactics, don’t just complain about the Swartz case. Don’t just complain when the defendant happens to be a brilliant guy who went to Stanford and hangs out with Larry Lessig. Instead, complain that this is business as usual in federal criminal cases around the country – mostly with defendants who no one has ever heard of and who get locked up for years without anyone else much caring.”

Prosecutorial abuse is a drastically under-discussed problem in general, but it poses unique political dangers when used to punish and deter online activism. But it’s becoming the preeminent weapon used by the US government to destroy such activism.

‘Anonymous’ Hacker Explains Why He Fled The US

anon

Business Insider
Mar. 2, 2012
By Michael Kelley

Anonymous is front and center these days: the amorphous hacktivist group has been publishing internal data of U.S. banks while prominent members are prosecuted on charges of stealing information and sharing links to stolen credit card information.

Yet overarching insights into the decentralized collective are hard to find.

Information activist Asher Wolf provides a unique perspective in an interview with a prominent American Anon, who has more than 290,000 Twitter followers via @AnonyOps and is living in exile by choice.

The hacker left the country out of a fear of being harshly prosecuted by the government for radical advocacy of movements such as WikiLeaks and Occupy .

“I think the idea was planted when I saw others leaving,” @AnonyOps told Wolf. ” Glen Greenwald left … There’s a brain drain of political dissidents – America’s punishment for screwing with civil liberties.

Anonymous Launches Operation Wall Street, Targets CEOs

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Information Week
Mar. 2, 2012
By Mathew J. Schwartz

Anonymous has a new mission: Operation Wall Street.

The loosely organized hacktivist collective Thursday declared war — or at least inconvenience — on financial services businesses in a call to arms against “the crimes of Goldman Sachs and other firms” for their role in contributing to the mortgage crisis, amongst other alleged misdeeds.

“It should be the duty of any Anonymous, any hacker, in solidarity with Occupy, to release the Dox on the CEOs & any and all Executives of Goldman Sachs, AIG, Wells Fargo, Chase, Meryl Lynch, and any other guilty party,” it wrote, referring to releasing (doxing) stolen data. “Their dox, any and all possible personal information on these people, must be released and made public and spread across the internet as much as possible. The people who have lost their homes and had their lives destroyed deserve to know who it was that did it.”

The new statement from Anonymous struck a populist note, referencing widespread bankruptcies triggered by the mortgage crisis, bank employees’ bonuses and the poor treatment of Internet activist Aaron Swartz. But it was also personal, calling out Bank of America for its “pathetic assault on Anonymous’ methods,” referring to what it first alleged Monday was a campaign funded by Bank of America to spy on Anonymous and Occupy members.

NYPD lied under oath to prosecute Occupy activist

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RT
March 2, 2012

An Occupy Wall Street activist was acquitted of assaulting a police officer and other charges on Thursday after jurors were presented with video evidence that directly contradicted the NYPD’s story.

Michael Premo was found innocent of all charges this week in regards to a case that stems from a December 17, 2011 Occupy Wall Street demonstration in Lower Manhattan. For over a year, prosecutors working on behalf of the New York Police Department have insisted that Premo, a known artist and activist, tackled an NYPD officer during a protest and in doing so inflicted enough damage to break a bone.

During court proceedings this week, Premo’s attorney presented a video that showed officers charging into the defendant unprovoked. The Village Voice reports that jurors deliberated for several hours on Thursday and then elected to find Premo not guilty on all counts, which included a felony charge of assaulting an officer of the law.

Cops May Be Liable for Felling Occupy Berkeley

Occupy Protests

Courthouse News Service
Mar. 1, 2012
By CHRIS MARSHALL

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – Police must face excessive-force claims related to an Occupy protest they dispersed at the University of California, Berkeley, a federal judge ruled.

The protesters claimed to have been engaged in a peaceful protest of tuition hikes and the privatization of public education when officers battered them and used excessive force.

After police raided their Sproul Hall encampment on Nov. 9, 2011, hundreds of protestors allegedly returned later that evening and erected more tents.

They said Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Harry LeGrande warned them to remove their tents before the police arrived 10 p.m., at which time they would allegedly give a 10-minute warning and remove the tents by force. Officers actually arrived in riot gear at 9:30 and raided the encampment, according to the complaint.

Climate change rally brings thousands to protest in Washington

keystone

Los Angeles Times
Feb. 17, 2012
By Matt Pearce

Climate activists descended on Washington, D.C., on Sunday in what organizers boasted was the largest climate-change rally in American history, claiming more than 35,000 attendees.

The Forward on Climate rally, as it was billed by environmental groups Sierra Club and 350.org, called for President Obama to take immediate action on climate change, with many calling for the government to block the construction of the oil pipeline known as Keystone XL.

Protestors marched through the streets bearing placards and massed on the National Mall, where speakers addressed the crowd. Washington police declined to provide a crowd estimate.

“Today was one of the best days of my life, because I saw the movement come together finally, big and diverse and gorgeous,” 350.org President Bill McKibben tweeted after speaking at the rally.

Anonymous threatens Justice Department over hacktivist death

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CNN
Jan. 26, 2012
By Ben Brumfield

(CNN) — In anger over the recent death of an Internet activist who faced federal charges, hackers claiming to be from the group Anonymous threatened early Saturday to release sensitive information about the U.S. Department of Justice.

They claimed to have one such file on multiple servers ready for immediate release.

The hackers apparently hijacked the website of the U.S. government agency responsible for federal sentencing guidelines, where they posted a message demanding the United States reform its justice system or face incriminating leaks to select news outlets.

The lengthy, eloquently written letter was signed “Anonymous.”

Online activist, programmer Swartz dies in NY

swartz

Associated Press
Jan. 12, 2012
By VERENA DOBNIK

NEW YORK (AP) — A co-founder of Reddit and activist who fought to make online content free to the public has been found dead, authorities confirmed Saturday, prompting an outpouring of grief from prominent voices on the intersection of free speech and the Web.

Aaron Swartz, 26, hanged himself in his Brooklyn apartment weeks before he was to go on trial on accusations that he stole millions of journal articles from an electronic archive in an attempt to make them freely available. If convicted, he faced decades in prison and a fortune in fines.

He was pronounced dead Friday evening at home in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, said Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for New York’s chief medical examiner.

Swartz was “an extraordinary hacker and activist,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an international nonprofit digital rights group based in California wrote in a tribute on its home page.

‘Idle No More’ plans global rallies over Canada’s aboriginals

idle no more

Press TV
Jan. 8, 2012

The ‘Idle No More’ native rights movement plans to stage worldwide rallies on Friday in solidarity with Canada’s Aboriginal communities.

Organizers are preparing to stage rallies this coming Friday, which is designated as the ‘Global Day of Action’. It coincides with the same day that Prime Minister Stephen Harper plans to meet with some native leaders, including Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence.

Spence has been on hunger strike since December 11, 2012, and intends to continue the protest until Harper meets with the leaders of Aboriginal communities.